Don’t expect full results until this weekend, officials say
RUSTBURG – Virginia residents finished voting, but the ballot count continues. Over 2.7 million people cast their vote prior to Election Day in one way or another. For some people, that meant physically stepping foot in a local registrar’s office or going to one of the satellite voting precincts set up throughout the state. For others, that meant requesting a paper ballot in the mail and sending it back before or on Nov. 3.
Either option – voting in-person up to 45 days before the election or receiving a ballot in the mail – counted as an absentee vote.
Virginia implemented a no excuse absentee ballot this year, due to COVID-19 concerns. Before 2020, those voting absentee in the commonwealth had to go through an application process before receiving an absentee ballot, showcasing why they could not vote in-person on Election Day.
This year, that changed so that individuals could skip what many expected would be close quarters with other people at the polls, come the first Tuesday of November. Spacing the vote out over a month and a half, millions of residents took advantage of the timely change.
In Virginia, those wanting a mail-in ballot still had to physically request it. That’s unlike some other states, which sent out absentee ballots to all registered voters, whether they requested the paper or not.
As of Wednesday night, registrars across the state still hadn’t submitted all ballots to the Virginia Department of Elections. That’s largely thanks to mail-in ballots currently in the postal system.
Waiting for outstanding ballots
In Campbell County, General Registrar Kelly Martin had approximately 500 absentee votes still unaccounted for by Wednesday morning.
She explained that the number presented Wednesday night could slightly skew, as the office hadn’t finished counting drop box ballots placed in the secure box before 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The office also hadn’t processed provisional ballots as of 10 a.m. Wednesday.
As the mail-in ballots continue to trickle in and the team counts the provisional votes, Martin noted the numbers could change.
“Some people have chosen to vote at the polls instead of mailing them back, so I think that’s going to affect the numbers a little bit,” Martin said.
In Roanoke, General Registrar Andrew Cochran estimated that were some 2,000 absentee votes still outside of his office when the polls closed on Tuesday night.
However, he didn’t expect the polling percentages to change much, even if every ballot arrived at his office in time to count.
“I don’t think it’ll affect the outcome, no,” Cochran said.
Still, he will report the votes as his office receives and verifies them. He expected to culminate the ballot count before the start of the weekend.
“They changed things in my [Central Absentee Precinct], that they can bring things in after, if it’s postmarked for yesterday, that we count them on Friday,” Martin said. “So we will be finishing up the numbers there on Friday.”
Mail-ins still mailed in
For a mail-in ballot to count, there are several things that need to happen. First, ballot recipients must correctly fill out every area on the ballot. There is one exception to that rule, if voters can correct the mistake in time.
Those with a ballot that they improperly completed will have one last chance to alter their ballot. If they forgot to sign the B envelope, accidentally put at P.O. Box address in lieu of their home address or another simple, common mistake, they’ll have the opportunity to correct that. However, only a few hours remain for those making corrections.
“It has to be by noon on Friday,” Martin said.
That’s a statewide law, so the same applied in Roanoke.
“Anyone who was contacted about curing their ballot has until noon on Friday to do that,” Cochran said.
Second, voters needed to pay attention to the address on the outer envelope. Those voting absentee by-mail don’t send their ballot directly to the Virginia Department of Elections in Richmond. They submit their ballot locally, and on time.
“They have to arrive by U.S. Mail on Friday,” Cochran said. “They come directly to this office.”
For clarification, voters cannot bring their absentee ballot to the registrar’s office in-person by noon on Friday. Voters had to mail and postmark the ballots by or on Election Day. Anything marked after Tuesday will not count toward any presidential or local races.
“Any mail that we receive through Friday that’s postmarked [by] yesterday will be counted,” Cochran said.
The official Virginia vote won’t be in for several days. Legally, localities have until Nov. 10 to submit each precinct’s final numbers.
However, national media outlets called Virginia a blue state only four hours after polls closed in the commonwealth. Some outlets reported a Biden win in the state even sooner.
Cochran set the record straight.
“We did not declare a winner. I know the media declares a winner based on the votes that have been reported at that time. But the localities have until next Tuesday to certify their local elections,” Cochran said. “Then the Department of Elections at the state level has until the following week to certify for the state.”
Even though the vote isn’t the official result, Martin didn’t suspect a switch from blue to red over the next couple of weeks.
“They’re going with the unofficial results,” Martin said. “So I would assume, unless there’s something major that comes up, that that’s the results they’re going to go by.”
Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. She can be reached at [email protected]